The re-introduction of Spanish into the education system of the Philippines was brought to the fore during the visit of Queen Sofia of Spain this week. Though originally mandated by former President Gloria Arroyo in 2007, President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III happened to be in a convenient position to herald the return of the old colonial tongue — lingua franca in some of the largest emerging markets today.
Queen Sofia expressed appreciation to Aquino for the countryâ€™s effort to reintroduce the Spanish language in the Philippine public education system as it â€œopens up opportunities to secure the well-being of future generations of Filipinos in the globalized world.â€
The reintroduction of Spanish was just one example of what President Aquino said were strong ties between the Philippines and Spain, its colonizer of nearly four centuries.
â€œWe are working together; whether in trade, sports, defense, or in tourism, in all the vital spheres of human endeavor,â€ said Aquino.
Memorandum Order Number 276 signed by then President Arroyo in 2007 orders “the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to encourage the teaching and learning of the Spanish language throughout the country” in considering that Spanish is (1) an official language of the United Nations, (2) the world’s fourth most commonly-spoken language, (3) the third most commonly-used language on the Internet after English and Chinese, (4) the language spoken by the fastest-growing market segment in North America.
The last item spells out its biggest value proposition for the average Filipino schmoe: more job opportunities both overseas and in the hundreds of call centres that dot Metro Manila.
The key principle at work here is access. Filipinos have time and again consistently proven a chronic inability to create opportunity, capital, and wealth indigenously in quantities sufficient to employ its enormous population. Command of Spanish provides instant access to a vast knowledgebase accumulated by the Spanish-speaking world over the last 200 years. It is a knowledgebase to which knowledge is relentlessly being added at an ever increasing rate — far faster than our Tagalog-articulated knowledgebase is being augmented by both original material and translated material.
The dubious sense in wasting already-meagre state funds deployed to the country’s public education to support classroom time dedicated to Tagalog-articulated instruction has long been a hotly-debated issue. Tagalog has long been recognised as a language that does not offer clear advantages to its speakers in an increasingly competitive job market. Most plum white-collar work is easily snapped up by graduates of elite private schools where a priority placed in producing English-proficient students (that other global lingua franca) are primary value propositions. Limited slots for highly-marketable courses in top universities are virtually served on a silver platter to elite high-school graduates, and top recruiters all but limit their selection dragnet to a handful of these exceptional universities and their rarefied graduates.
Clearly the solution is obvious. It is time for a serious re-evaluation of the place of the no-results “national language” in Philippine society in today’s world in the face of evidence that can no longer be ignored — that Filipinos remain, and will remain for the foreseeable future, dependent on everything foreign to survive. By continuing this foolish insistence that a â€œnationalâ€ language based on an intellectually barren dialect such as Tagalog be given classroom time in our public school system, we are in effect choking the ability of entire generations of Filipino youth to partake in the vast wealth of knowledge the rest of advanced humanity has to offer. At no time in history has this knowledge been so readily available. This is an immense tragedy of epic proportions.